When I first set foot in the bar, I knew instantly we were home.
It was just about 2 years ago when I was looking for a space where Sojourners’ Fellowship could meet once the dark and rainy season set in. Until that time we’d been meeting in Plantsoen Park or the home I share with my wife. While these were warm and wonderful settings, we were outgrowing our house and Dutch weather is not always conducive to outdoor gatherings.
I searched and searched, and searched some more, for an affordable and gezellig space where our merry little band of spiritual seekers could meet on first and third Sundays. Most places I found were either too expensive or too sterile – usually both. When I clicked on the link to Vrijplaats Leiden and began reading what they stand for and how they create community, I was immediately hungry to learn more.
Vrijplaats Leiden describes who they are like this (with help from Google Translate)
The sanctuary offers, now and in the future, space for innovative and groundbreaking initiatives of a cultural and social nature. On Fridays and Saturdays, and sometimes on other days as well, there are currently performances by singer-songwriters, theater performances, debates and film screenings. Every Saturday there is also the immensely popular plant-based (also vegan) eatery. In short, a lot to do.
Housed under the roof of Vrijplaats are a variety of projects and a kaleidoscope of people yearning and working to bend the arc of the universe toward justice. And for my understanding of the work of a community of faith, in this case Sojourners’ Fellowship, I could see no better fit.
So after consultation with the collective wisdom of both Sojo and Vrijplaats, we began meeting in their vegan cafe and bar with eclectic tables, posters of freedom fighters on the walls, a vacant video game in the corner and the tang of stale beer in the air. It was heaven!
We met and grew in the space for a couple of years, getting to know others in Vrijplaats by volunteering in the vegan cafe, behind the bar and with other groups who call the sanctuary home.
Then the lockdown came.
For months Vrijplaats was closed due to the COVID intelligent lockdown. This was both a challenge and a gift for us all. For Vrijplaats this meant they could accelerate the long planned and evolving renovation of the spaces. For us we had a chance to look deeply at our practices and purpose.
In this in-between time, VrijSpirit began to emerge as a calling for a few within the Sojo community. With a longing to create a variety of events, courses and workshops, we began planning and once again looking for a just-right space in which to bring our project to life. At about the same time we were dreaming and scheming the spiritually focused, creative coop, an ad popped up for a rentable room – right in the heart of Vrijplaats!
So here we are, just a couple of weeks after being voted in as a organizing member of the Vrijplaats community, settling in to our own sanctuary. We’ve are feathering our nest with comfy chairs found at Dorcas Kringloopwinkle, donations from friends and a few treasures we’ve had at home for just such a time as this.
It is with deep gratitude to the folks at Vrijplaats and every person who is cheering us on that we are able to begin this chapter of our lives. We hope you will check out the agenda, find an event or offering that resonates with you and come visit VrijSpirit soon. And maybe, just maybe, you have a project just waiting to help spirits soar that you would like to share.
Whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.